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Trouble for Ki Sung-yeung?

Posted by Seamus Walsh on April 13, 2010

Today Scotland’s Glasgow Celtic played out a 2-1 win against Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League at Celtic Park. In many ways it was an insignificant game. Celtic have first faltered and then essentially collapsed this season. New manager Tony Mobray was deemed a failure, and has since been replaced by former Celtic legendary player Neil Lennon. Celtic are 10 points behind fierce rivals Rangers in the league, and on Saturday they embarrassingly lost to Ross County in the cup.

These developments are even worse for South Korean player Ki Sung-yeung. He hasn’t played a single game for caretaker manager Lennon, not even featuring on the substitutes bench for the last three games. I’ve written before about what I think it will take for him to become successful in European football, especially in British football. Mostly, he needs to adjust to living in Scotland, then adjust to the style of football, the number of games played in the Scottish league (a lot more than in the K-League) and he needs to improve physically – he needs to get stronger and quicker. He has the talent, but it seems that Neil Lennon doesn’t think he’s ready or capable of helping Celtic improve on their poor season just yet.

Ki Sung-yeung needs to show Lennon what he's capable of

Lennon has also threatened a complete overhaul of the squad in the summer if performances don’t improve. What could this mean for Ki? With only a few games left, it’s hard to see him making much more of an impact this season as Lennon doesn’t seem to want to pick him at all. Mowbray was definitely a fan of the young midfielder, and gave him the responsibility of taking corners and some free kicks, as well as simply giving him game time. Ki is also not the first Korean player Mowbray had signed, as he also bought Kim Do-heon when he was manager of West Bromwich Albion.

So, with Ki’s ally and perhaps mentor Tony Mowbray gone, how does he fit into Neil Lennon’s plans for the future, if Lennon stays as Celtic manager for next season, which hasn’t been decided yet. I think it’s very hard to say. If Lennon appreciates Ki’s talents, maybe he just doesn’t think he’s ready to play every match just yet. On the other hand, it’s possible he’s just not a fan of Ki and will want to sell him on.

Ki Sung-yeung in action

I said before that the Scottish League would certainly help Ki improve his game so he could compete in one of Europe’s bigger leagues – most likely the English Premier League, as this seems to be his preferred choice. I hope he keeps working hard to constantly improve, and to fight for the team. He’s talented enough to be starting in the Celtic midfield but it needs more than just talent at this level. If Celtic do decide to sell him in the summer, I desperately hope he doesn’t go back to Korea. He needs to play regularly in a European team. If, for example, a team from the English Championship wanted to sign him I think he should jump at the chance. Playing for a team in the Championship means there’s slightly less pressure than the Premiership, which means he can focus on his game without worrying that any mistake he makes could have huge consequences. It also means he will have more chances to play regularly. This is what he needs more than anything. I hope he gets given the chance soon.

One thing is for sure, though, if he doesn’t play every game for Celtic before the end of the season, he will be less tired than a lot of players when the World Cup starts in June, which can only be good for Korea.

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7 Responses to “Trouble for Ki Sung-yeung?”

  1. john said

    Hi Seamus,

    Once again another great article and insight into Korean football. It’s been a long time since when it was a rare thing to see Asian footballer plying their trade in Europe. If there was probably in a lesser know team or league.

    But these days, it is quite common to see many of them signing for big clubs. Infact rather than sitting at the end of the bench, they’re making an impact (PARK Ji-Sung etc.).

    I must say that I really admire what you’re doing in this blog. Or yes, I hope you did receive my e-mail which I did re-send it to you.

    If not, please feel free to write to me at sivanjohn@yahoo.com

  2. Ben said

    Good work Seamus.
    Also mate, what do you make of the Korean clubs domination of the ACL this year. All four progress to the last 16 overnight.

    • Hi Ben, thanks for the compliments!

      All I can say is, god for them. I was a little surprised that all four of the managed it, but the teams who qualified by finishing lower down in the league last season are very experienced in the Champions League, and it’s one of those competitions where experience counts for everything. Don’t be surprised to see a Korean side doing very well again this year.

  3. Anon said

    I think Ki has bags of talent and I’ve been disappointed to see him left out of the squad as of recently. However, I think that a good showing in the World Cup might help him a lot. Lennon (or whoever takes over) will get to see his talent on the biggest stage in the world.

    If our new manager does get rid of him (which would be a mistake in my opinion), I think it’d be best moving to a mid table EPL club. Look at Lee playing for Bolton. He’s been amazing this season and has the attention of bigger clubs. I think it’d be a mistake joining a relegation candidate or a Championship side.

    I hope Ki has a bright career and I’d love to see him become a legend in the Hoops.

    • Hi there,

      totally agree with everything you said. Personally, I can’t see him becoming a legend at the hoops, though. Not because he’s not good enough, because I’m certain he is, especially when you look at how poor Celtic have arguably been this season, but because I think sooner or later he’ll move. I think he was always planning on moving, and I’m sure Mowbray expected it when he signed him, simply because he will be too good for the Scottish league.

      If he was to move before the start of the new season, I definitely agree with you that a mid-table EPL team would be his best bet. Well, when I say mid-table, I think we’re really talking about lower-mid table, because of the number of teams who get into Europe these days. There was a time when 9th would have been considered mid-table, now you’re only a place or two away from getting into the Europa League. So I think mid-table as a term meaning teams who aren’t likely to go dramatically up or down in the foreseeable future actually means anywhere from about 12th-15th. Someone like Bolton…

      I was actually thinking about this the other day, and I think either Wigan or West Ham would be a good match for Ki’s style of play, although it looks like there’s probably going to be big changes at West Ham for next season.

      Lee has certainly done very well for Bolton, although his performances were better earlier on in the season. It seems to me that as soon as the rumour that linked him with Liverpool started making the rounds his form took a dip. I hope he doesn’t lose his concentration with things like that in future, because it doesn’t take much in the EPL to start generating rumours – very few of which ever turn out to be true. He just needs to keep working at his game and play as well as he can. Another couple of seasons at Bolton should give him the platform he needs to go on to bigger and better things, and I think the same is true for Ki at Celtic.

  4. Anon said

    Yeah, it’s probably just wishful thinking on my part. I could imagine some great Champions League nights with him though – á la Shunsuke Nakamura.

    I hope you keep the updates up. I love Korea and football, so finding a blog like this was great. FC Seoul to win the K-League this season and Celtic to win the SPL next season. 😉

    Now I’m off to the pub. Celtic vs Rangers tonight! 😛

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